Paul Kimmage: 'He never gave me HGH or PEDs. I've never taken that my entire life'
"The Woods family dynamic made Tiger the most mysterious athlete of his time, an enigma obsessed with privacy who mastered the art of being invisible in plain sight, of saying something while revealing virtually nothing. On one hand, he grew up before our eyes, appearing on television shows as early as age two and being photographed and chronicled throughout his childhood. On the other hand, so much of his true family history and personal life remains shrouded in conditional interviews, carefully constructed press releases, mythical tales, half-truths, sophisticated advertising campaigns, and tabloid headlines. So we were not surprised when Woods, through his chief spokesman, Glenn Greenspan, declined to be interviewed for this book. (Or, to be more precise, we were told that before any interview would be "considered" we needed to disclose whom we spoke to, what they said, and the specific questions we would be asking, conditions that we were not willing to meet.) Woods's mother, Kultida, in turn, did not respond to our request for an interview. Woods did, however, authorize his long-time chiropractor to provide a comprehensive statement about his treatment of Woods and the issue of performance-enhancing drugs."
(Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian, 'Tiger Woods')
We're standing on the range at Isleworth, an affluent suburb of Orlando, on a beautiful sunny morning in the spring of 2011. "Do you see that place there?" he says, pointing towards an elegant dwelling near the range.
"Yeah," I reply.
"That's where Tiger lived."
"This is Deacon Circle," he says. "There's the hydrant he hit when he crashed."
"I'm telling you," he laughs. "That's the scene of the big bang."
Across the rope, Graeme McDowell is hitting balls with Ian Poulter and Ernie Els. He should be with them; he's one of the world's best golfers and has a tournament to prepare for, but we're both still gazing at the hydrant.
"Did you ever wonder about that?" he asks.
"How do you mean?"
"The chronology," he says.
"Yeah, the sequence of events. There's the crash and then the women and soon they're coming out of everywhere! He's screwing them in hotels; screwing them in car parks; screwing them in golf carts. It's front-page news all over the world and his image is completely shredded. There's a public apology - do you remember how awful that was?"
"Yeah," I reply, "an absolute cringe-fest."
"And that's when you begin to wonder: 'How could they get it so wrong?"
"How could who get it so wrong?"
"His management team. This is IMG (International Management Group) we're talking about here - the world leaders when it comes to sports management - but this is a complete and utter shambles."
"Fair point," I reply.
"See, I've a theory," he says.
"What if it wasn't a shambles? What if it was deliberate? What if there was another issue on the table and a decision was made: let's keep people focused on what's happening over there, so they won't notice what's happening over here."
"I'm not with you."
"Over there is a story of infidelity," he says. "Over here is a story about performance-enhancing drugs. So let's keep people focused on the infidelity, because there's a way back from cheating on your wife but there's . . . "
"No way back from cheating on your sport."
"Exactly," he says.
"Wow!" I gush. "That's an interesting theory."
. . . I dined out on it for the next six years.
There are some fascinating insights on how IMG did business in Tiger Woods, the just-published biography by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian. In April 1997, on the eve of Woods's first victory at the Masters, we discover them trying to muscle the author, John Feinstein, over breakfast at Augusta.
Feinstein has written some unflattering pieces about Woods. Hughes Norton and Clarke Jones, two IMG minders, are offering "access" to Feinstein's publisher if he stops. "If you want to stay and eat with these two assholes, go ahead," Feinstein says, turning to his boss. "But I have better things to do than listen to this crap."
In 2007, they take a call from the National Enquirer about a waitress Woods has been seeing and a deal is done with a sister publication - an exclusive interview with Men's Fitness - to make the story go away. Fighting fires is IMG's business. Protecting clients is how they made their name. But two years later, when the Enquirer return to the story, there is no dousing the flames.
Tiger's firefighter in chief is the redoubtable Mark Steinberg. In November 2009, he places a call to Hank Haney, Woods's coach, about the impending storm: "Hank, I want to give you a heads-up," he says. "There's going to be a story coming out about Tiger and this girl. It's not true. Everything is going to be fine. But if anybody asks you about it, don't say anything."
He also sends a text to Steve Williams, Woods's caddie: "There is a story coming out tomorrow. Absolutely no truth to it. Don't speak to anybody."
The story 'Tiger Woods Cheating Scandal' is published on the eve of Thanksgiving. Woods spends the next day struggling to pacify his wife and has taken sleeping tablets and gone to bed when she discovers a text on his phone: "You're the only one I've ever loved." It was not sent to her.
She confronts him with the phone and a huge row ensues. He jumps into his car, speeds out of the driveway and loses control, clipping the fire hydrant. The police are called. There's a man lying on the ground beside a car on Deacon Circle with blood streaming from his mouth.
It's two weeks later when Steinberg takes the call from The New York Times. Fourteen women have gone public with stories but the journalist from The Times is pursuing a different story. A Canadian doctor, Anthony Galea, was being investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for smuggling, advertising and selling unapproved drugs.
He was also being investigated by the FBI on suspicion of providing athletes with performance-enhancing drugs. Galea, a sports medicine specialist, denied the charge: "All these athletes come see me in Canada cause I fix them, and I think people just assume I'm giving them stuff," he said. "They don't have to come to me to get HGH (Human Growth Hormone) and steroids. You can walk into your local gym in New York and get HGH."
Galea had been working with the Toronto Argonauts football team since 2004. He had also treated the Olympic gold medallist Donovan Bailey and some of the top names in the NFL. But it was his involvement with Tiger Woods that prompted the call to Steinberg. He responded to The Times by email: "I would really ask that you guys don't write this? If Tiger is NOT implicated, and won't be, let's please give the kid a break."
The following April, when Woods returned to the Masters and faced the press, he was asked about his association with Galea and performance-enhancing drugs - perhaps the first time the 'd' word had been heard at Augusta. "He (Galea) did come to my house," Woods said. "He never gave me HGH or PEDs. I've never taken that my entire life. I've never taken any illegal drug ever, for that matter."
But even his peers were having doubts. A month later, a survey in Sports Illustrated revealed that "almost a quarter" of the pros interviewed did not believe him. And of the many brilliant lines in the Benedict/Keteyian biography, it's the one that stands out: "No question has hovered over Woods more than whether he used performance-enhancing drugs."
But it's a question few can answer.
"I'm a walking miracle," Woods announced last week on the eve of his 21st Masters - an opinion shared by his chiropractor, Dr Mark Lindsay, in the (only) authorised statement provided for the book. "Tiger Woods's body/muscle tone and tissue are completely consistent with what one would expect from an elite athlete free of performance-enhancing drugs.
"Stated differently, there was no evidence of rigid, stiff, and hypertonic body/muscle tone or tissue during my multiple physical examinations of Tiger Woods, which one would expect if performance-enhancing drugs were being used."
"Tiger Woods is truly one of the most impressive, skilled, intense, and determined athletes I have ever worked with. These are the qualities and attributes that drive his rehabilitation and comeback."
There's nothing to see here. Amen.
Sunday Indo Sport